Fox News’ “hard news” and conservative opinion wings appear to agree: It’s great that police tear-gassed a peaceful D.C. protest so President Donald Trump could stage a photo-op to prove he wasn’t hiding in a bunker.
Moments before the president delivered a Rose Garden speech, in which he called himself an “ally of all peaceful protesters” while vowing to dispatch the military to tamp down violent demonstrations, police officers charged into a group of peaceful demonstrators in Lafayette Park. Reporters on the ground noted the use of tear gas, and one video showed law-enforcement officers smacking reporters with a truncheon.
After the cops violently cleared the park of protesters and reporters—despite the city’s curfew not going into effect for another 20 minutes—the president then strolled from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church, which had been damaged during weekend protests. The president, meanwhile, briefly stood in front of the church while hoisting a Bible for reporters to see—all while sirens blared nearby and tear gas was still wafting in the air.
Trump having law enforcement use munitions to disperse a non-violent gathering was met with widespread outrage and criticism, including from the bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington, who lamented the president deploying violence to use the church “as a prop.”
And of course, Fox News proceeded to do what Fox News does best: Rally to defend the president for his every action.
The praise immediately began when “hard news” anchor Martha MacCallum was awestruck by the imagery of the president’s trek to the church. “This is remarkable,” she gushed, later adding that Trump was making a “strong statement” and sending a message to the nation that he was “taking back this real estate, this territory.”
Fox News contributor Karl Rove—who informally advises the Trump campaign—reacted to MacCallum by saying it was “extraordinary” as Trump was “making it clear to the American people that we will not tolerate this.” He would go on to cheer the staged photo-op as the president restoring “a sense of calm, of peace, of normality to our cities.”
Later in the evening, Fox News host Sean Hannity—a Trump confidant often referred to as the president’s shadow chief of staff—said Trump taking a short walk and standing outside the church “reassured Americans this will be solved.”
Another close Trump ally, Fox News contributor Dan Bongino, would go even further than Hannity. “I’m glad the president had the stones to walk across the street in that park,” he raved. “I thought he was hiding in a bunker, kind of made everybody look silly when he walked his ass right out of the White House right across the street, wasn’t it?”
Elsewhere on primetime, during The Ingraham Angle, Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo dismissed any concerns that the protesters were gathered peacefully. “The president, of course, made that historic speech in the Rose Garden as they pushed all of those violent protesters out,” he declared. “The president drew a line in the sand.” (On Tuesday morning, that show’s host, Laura Ingraham, tweeted that it was “false” that police used tear gas, despite reporting from the scene confirming the use of such munitions.)
That narrative remained intact the following morning—and continued to transcend the network’s news/opinion divide—as Fox News reporter Griff Jenkins insisted the violent removal of the gathering was necessary. “When you're talking about the leader of the free world, and the President of the United States, you don't want to be in their way,” he said.
Similarly, daytime “hard news” anchor Sandra Smith introduced a segment on the ordeal as “Police cracking down on violence throughout the streets of Washington as President Trump visits a church that was damaged by a fire during weekend protests.”
As Smith spoke, Fox’s on-air graphic blared: “POLICE CRACK DOWN ON RIOTS IN D.C.”
The symbiosis between the so-called news reporters and the network’s hard-right opinion commentators was most apparent, however, during a segment featuring news anchor Ed Henry and contributor Marc Thiessen.
Framing the tear-gassing episode as a mere difference of opinion in the media, Henry claimed “people are saying” that “‘peaceful protesters’ were cleared out” while forgetting “the fact that these ‘peaceful protesters’ had set that church on fire the night before,” casually (and without fact) connecting Monday's peaceful demonstrators with the fire.
Thiessen took the ball from Henry and ran with it, declaring that because Trump is the president, it is the Secret Service’s job to clear anyone and everyone out of the way if the president wants to go somewhere.
“And if they had to use tear gas, what does that say about the protesters?” Thiessen added, once again painting a peaceful protest as violent.
Thiessen also brushed off presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s criticism of the actions against the protesters. “If they were peaceful protesters, there would be no use for teargas,” he exclaimed, adding: “If they had to use teargas...That’s not a peaceful protest. And it’s not a photo-op.”